At the beginning of each year, many of us to take a moment to pause and reflect upon the prior year and think about how we can make this year even bigger and better than the last. We look to opportunities for self-improvement, whether they are physical, mental, or emotional and create goals for ourselves that will hopefully make us stronger, smarter, or just a little bit more well rounded as individuals.
We use resolutions as a chance to reevaluate ourselves and look for flaws that we feel are limiting our own potential, which is great, but are we doing the same due diligence for our business? Creating resolutions for your business is a simple way to identify a few additional goals you want to achieve and with some strategy and commitment can have big impacts on your business. Here are five resolutions that will be key game changers in the retail industry for the upcoming year and that you can commit to instantly.
Resolution #1 - Be Imaginative
Retail is a super competitive space to be in today. Aside from the mega retailers like Amazon and Wal-Mart, there are also new e-tailers and wholesalers popping up every day to compete for your customer's business and sales. In the past few years, remaining relevant has meant prioritizing efficiency over innovation, repetition over creativity, and looking to the past for answers instead of looking to the future for freedom to explore. By placing more importance on business meetings instead of free think discussions we suffocate new ideas instead of nurturing them. To move your business forward, it’s imperative to consider fostering a more imaginative working environment that inspires ideas, dialogue, and ultimately your business.
For 2018 try refocusing your efforts into creating something special for your customers, something unique that only you can offer them. Make time for creative brainstorming with your own team and ask for any and all ideas, however “out there” or expensive they may be. Don’t just do this once, make this a regular discussion for your team and encourage them to start thinking more creatively as this is a new priority for your business. Focus on innovation across the entire organization and encourage team members to consider all aspects of your business like new products, services, strategies, marketing, distribution, logistics etc. The value of this can’t be measured as giving the team and yourself the time to think creatively will lead to so many more opportunities for your business. Great ideas come from creative time, not just upper management and business meetings.
Resolution #2 - Invest in Tech
It goes without saying that a website is an absolute nowadays, but I’ll say it anyway. Customers expect a reputable business to have a web presence, and without one, your business’s credibility is challenged. As a retailer, your customers are coming to your website to shop and buy and they expect a brand relevant website with a focus on the customer and convenience. As a wholesaler, perhaps you can get by with a more modest website offering but it still must provide your customer with information like what your business is all about, and how they can get in touch with you. It is imperative that you have an online representation and a website is just the beginning.
One of the biggest changes we saw coming out of holiday 2017, was the increasing popularity of using mobile devices for shopping, researching, and purchasing and the seamless integration shoppers are beginning to anticipate from their mobile experience to their desktop experience.
According to Roger Woods, who was interviewed by Forbes and is the the Adobe director of mobile product and strategy, “For many retailers, the data will show that intent focused on discovery (e.g., product research), physical store information and customer service inquiries are some of the top activities. If the experience is delivered to make sure these are done very well, respecting the users time and intent, mobile will be a key entry point for consumers to seal the deal on another channel—be it desktop or in person. In some instances, these can be stitched together, where a cart started on mobile can be finished on a laptop at work.”
Even more exciting is that there seems to be a greater opportunity for smaller businesses that are mobile ready (or least willing to convert in 2018) and the payoff is increased conversion rates meaning more sales in your pocket. From the same Forbes article, “Interestingly, conversion rates are higher on mobile sites for smaller retailers, who might be more nimble in taking advantage of modern technology. Small retailers convert buyers at 1.9% on smartphones, compared to 1.6% for large and 1.3% for medium-sized businesses. Desktop rates are higher, at 3.4 to 4.9%.”
The synchronization of your website between desktop and mobile devices will only continue to grow in importance and with the bullish increases coming out of 2017, you can’t afford to miss the mobile opportunity.
Resolution #3 - Anticipate and Deliver Your Customer's Best Experience
I frequently write about how to create a great customer experience and I am constantly expressing why a focused customer approach is not just important, but a necessity for your business. Creating an amazing customer experience gives your consumers a reason to shop and continue to come back. It is the foundation of the relationship your business has with your customers because it builds brand loyalty and strengthens your business in the competitive landscape.
When contemplating your New Year’s resolutions, consider making this year different by taking a proactive approach and anticipating your customer’s experience. Take your business blinders off and let go of all your assumptions to really look at the experience you are currently offering your customer. Experience your business through their eyes and identify what you are doing well and what you can improve upon. Compare yourself to your competitors but also consider what you can do to stand apart. Your sole focus should be on what you can provide your customers with that is new, fresh, and makes the experience unique and special.
After you have identified your opportunities, take action by investing in and delivering them. Put the technology, resources, training, strategy, and whatever else it takes, to execute your new and improved customer experience.
Don’t fall into the “it’s good enough” mentality trap because it quickly spirals downward towards complacency and lowering your standards. To keep your business ahead of the competition in today’s marketplace, you need to focus on redefining what “the best customer experience possible” means, and revitalize it for 2018.
Resolution #4 - Plan for Calculated Risks
We’ve all been there before – it’s the middle of the year and an unexpected potentially game-changing opportunity for your business comes along, but you don’t have the resources or budget to invest in it. Then chaos ensues with impulsive scrambling to make decisions, resulting in missed opportunities and profit loss.
Make this year different by expecting the unexpected versus reacting to it later on. You know there are going to be unexpected opportunities that present themselves, but unfortunately you don’t know what those opportunities will be or when they will happen. This is why it’s critical for you to invest the time now, empowering you to manage these situations and mitigate the risks in the future.
You can prepare now by considering what types of risks you’re willing to take in 2018 right now, as well as what resources you should preserve (such as money or staffing) so they’re readily available and at your disposal throughout the year. Now, when that opportunity comes your way, suddenly and unexpectedly, you’ll already know the answer and be ready to make quick moves, striking when it’s hot.
As we all know, the greater the risk, the greater the reward, so taking a few deliberate risks in 2018 is well worth considering. Being prepared to take opportunities as they present themselves, will reduce your risk and gain the advantage in your business.
Resolution #5 - Value Your Time
Let’s start of with a clarifying point…by “your time” I mean not only your physical time but also the time you are paying for, like for your staff.
Now that we’ve established that, make 2018 the year you really put a value on your time and how you use your time to make this year profitable. This is about maximizing your time and your employee’s time by valuing work that puts an emphasis on cultivating your business and driving sales. This includes obvious work like strategic discussions about product initiatives and sales and marketing tactics etc. but also should include creative brainstorming (see #1) and team growth and development etc. because all these things will push your business forward in 2018.
It’s time to get smarter about the work you are doing and the work you are paying others to do for you. Nobody wants to work for a micro manager so make sure you are staying in your work lane when it comes to the work that you are doing. Why are checking on the status of purchase orders? Why are you even talking about checking on the status of purchase orders? You’re time is more valuable that that and you’ve hired others for that role so let them do it. Trust that they will let you know if there is a problem that they need your help on.
Focus on productivity and drop the marathon, time suck meetings that don’t result in business driving results. Ensure that the meetings that do occur are productive and engaging with clear agendas, pointed discussion, and the actual decision makers in attendance.
Delegate or outsource the work you won’t do, can’t do, or don’t want to do. Figure out who on your team will be good at the task at hand and ask them to work on it if it is something that you don’t need to do. Or if there isn’t anyone on your team that you think you can handle it, outsource it to a consultant for help. Your time is so much more valuable when it is spent focusing on what you are passionate about and what you are good at.
By reviving the value you place on your time, you will see increased productivity and your employees will thank you for the renewed approach.
Every New Year we set personal resolutions and instead focus our business on achieving this year’s financial goals. While we spend time on our financial goals it is likely that they probably won’t change too dramatically and may fluctuate up or down, as they are layered with different strategies to drive sales, gain new customers, or grow your business. Unfortunately, they are all so repetitively commonplace that it can be hard to get excited about them year after year.
This year try thinking bigger for your resolutions and focus on the entire retail landscape. The new year is an excellent time for evaluation and rededication and your business goals should be no different. Create new goals that not only align to your specific business but also set the foundation for your business in today’s retail environment. By setting a framework for success you will be ready to grab any opportunity that comes your way.
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